The Threat of Extremism and Terrorism in the Czech Republic is Being Fostered by Foreign Influence

  • Tomáš Kubík
  • 1.2.2019 09:40

Although extremism and terrorism have been recently overshadowed in terms of relevance by the activities of Russian and Chinese secret services, they still remain among the chief long-term security threats for the Czech Republic. The latest annual report of the Czech counterintelligence service (BIS) and the reports from the Czech Ministry of the Interior state that although disunity of local extremists coupled with a marked decrease in terrorist attacks across Europe rule out any immediate threats, the danger elicited by these security risks is still prevalent in the Czech Republic.

Traditional local extremism poses a lesser security threat than in the past, thanks in no small part to the Czech Republic’s successful security policy. Therefore, the most immediate danger of extremism lies in growing social polarisation. A further threat is posed by the attempts of extremists to incite emotional reactions among the public through manipulative campaigns. The talking points of extremists are increasingly adopted by anti-immigration, antimuslim movements, which are nevertheless not typically considered a part of the Czech extremist scene.

 

Czech extremist groups are largely fragmented and relatively less radical than in the past. 

 

Far-right extremist movements represented mainly by the Worker’s Social Justice Party (Dělnická strana sociální spravedlnosti) and the National Democracy (Národní demokracie) are splintered and gripped by internal strife. The representatives of these parties demonstrate a lower degree of radicalism than it was common in previous years. Despite this, there are some unifying trends observable in the narrative usually pushed by the extremist right. Far-right groups are usually strongly pro-Kremlin – they engage in criticizing the EU or various politicians or spreading fake information propagating Russian agenda at the expense of Czech national interests. We can also observe some unifying tendencies in the far-right’s antimuslim activities, which accentuate the incompatibility of Islam with European values and equate Muslims with terrorists. On the other hand, there has been an observable decrease in anti-immigration sentiments, which are increasingly less relevant as the migration crisis passed.

The developments among right-wing groups are mirrored by extremists on the left, which are also characterized by fragmentation and dwindling numbers of supporters. The dominant group are the anarchists, who focus on activist issues, namely the support of squats in Prague, environmental activism and protests against racism and xenophobia. Same as in the case of the far-right, there were no direct militant actions recorded in recent months.

 

Local extremists are heavily influenced by the events in neighbouring countries.

 

Domestic security is thus mostly endangered by foreign threats. Local extremists are heavily influenced by the events in neighbouring countries. They are traditionally tightly connected to Slovakia, where the far-right Kotleba – People's Party Our Slovakia (Kotleba – Ľudová strana Naše Slovensko) holds considerable sway in the highest levels of political life. The extremist, especially the neo-Nazis, from Germany also present a significant threat. Around 400 German far-right extremists facing arrest warrants have been recorded to be fleeing justice, roughly 30 of which are said to be located in Czech, Polish and Austrian territory. Apart from this, the far-right NPD and partially even the populist AfD, and the so-called Reich Citizens movement boast of vast member bases with the potential of intervening in Czech affairs. The left, whose position was bolstered by the protests against the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July of 2017, is also significantly represented in the neighbouring countries. There has been a marked increase in extremism in Poland, where the far-right is gaining clout especially through the Independence Marches conducted during the anniversary of the country’s independence. These Marches are annually attended by tens of thousands of far-right supporters, including large numbers of foreign extremists. Extremist groups in Hungary traditionally reflect on political developments in the Czech Republic. The most radical manifestations of the Hungarian far-right are the regular meetings of neo-Nazi groups. The recent establishment of the new far-right Force and Determination party is also worrisome.

 

The threat of radical Islamic terrorism continues to be marginal in the Czech Republic. 

 

Though the Czech Republic has not witnessed almost any direct acts of terrorism on its own soil, the threat of a terrorist attack cannot be ruled out. On top of that, there is the risk of potential radicalization of ethnic Czechs or members of the Muslim minority. Although Czechia has seen individual radicalization in the past, it did not escalate into direct security threats. The most discussed case in recent days is the story of Dominik Kobulnický, a 25-year-old Slovak living in Prague, who converted to radical Islam and was allegedly preparing a terrorist attack. Apart from that, Kobulnický faces accusations of propagating ISIS and the Caucasian Emirate. Recently, Prague-based imam, Samer Shehadeh, was also accused of supporting terrorism after he helped his relatives travel to Syria, where they fought under the terrorist Al-Nusra Front. On a large scale, such isolated cases are nevertheless not symptomatic of widespread radicalisation of the Muslim community. To the contrary, Czech Muslims are continuing to distance themselves from these examples of extremism.

The recent report of the Czech Security & Information Service, therefore, provided a sober overview of the current security threats in the Czech Republic, which largely mirror the wider situation in the region. Violence incited by radical Islamism is one of these threats, but it seems that the actual danger in Czechia seems to be marginal. The more traditional left and right-wing extremist spheres seem currently fragmented, but they are also being fostered by foreign influence. One of the big threats seems to be social fragmentation. Similar to other European states, the danger of Czech social fragmentation is growing, and it seems that the social and political norms are shifting more and more towards the extremes. All of these threats will, therefore, need to be monitored also in the coming years, especially the worrying trend of inciting divisions in the society.

About author: Tomáš Kubík

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